Respecting Our Uniqueness & Multiple Dimensions of Identity

“Millennials are tech savvy” was a statement mentioned in a training session about working in a multi-generational workplace I attended.  “Prove it to me” attitude was attributed to Gen Xers (1965-1980).  I equate these statements to the model minority myths associated with Asian Americans. They are general statements applied to groups that may or may not be true. One limitation of assigning traits to groups using one variable (generation) in my opinion is that it is too simplistic.There are also implications to these statements in that by accepting these generalities and neglecting to see the  uniqueness of the individuals we deal with, we may just be making inappropriate assumptions. The other limitation of just using generations to assign attributes is that it pigeon holes individuals into categories that may not be accurate or limiting. I took this “How Millennial Are You” quiz and I appear to have many of the characteristics attributed to Millennials. I’ve joked in the past that I am “millennialesque”.

I remain open to the idea that given the experience and events that shaped the different generations, there are general differences/similarities I need to be cognizant.  For example, while I do not believe that all Millennials are tech savvy, they are exposed to technologies  that were not available in previous generations. These technologies then influence how the generation conduct their lives, per Marshall McLuhan’s quote – “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”.

Going back to my point of the uniqueness of individuals, should I attribute my “prove it to me” attitude to the fact that I am a member of Gen X or is my cynicism borne out of my negative experiences growing up as an immigrant in the United States and/or my experience in the workplace? Is it part of my Filipino culture?   Is it just my personality? I took a DISC personality test recently in which I scored high Dominance/Influence.  Apparently, some of my attributes include: demanding, strong-willed, determined and ambitious. I also like to challenge status quo.

Fact of the matter is that human beings are multidimensional shaped by our own unique experiences and backgrounds.  In my case, my world view was/is shaped by many things including my immigration experience (I came here as 11 years old in 1984), my religion,  my socio-economic status, educational experience,  gender, and the values my parents instilled in me.

As student affairs professionals, we deal with many student populations and while we may assign students into categories (first generations, international students, …), it is important that we go beyond the generalities and respect the uniqueness of each student, shaped by their own backgrounds and experiences.


5 thoughts on “Respecting Our Uniqueness & Multiple Dimensions of Identity

  1. Carol Sauceda

    I agree, Joe, each of us bring unque qualities to every group that we interact with. You’re correct that immigration, religion, socio-economic status, educational experience, gender, and the values we learn from our parents play a huge impact on who we are and why we do what we do. I don’t think that any of us can fully understand another person because of the complexities of all this. We can only do our best to be open to listening, learning, and trying to understand.

    Understanding and appreciating diversity is ongoing work for each of us.

    Thank you for your post.

  2. Eric M. Nestor

    Great post, Joe! You packed a lot of good thought-provoking issues into a small post. I read it this morning and have been trying to figure out the best way to comment, on what to comment, and, probably at some point, what to write about for my own blog.

    As a GenXer myself, I certainly have many of those traditional characteristics. However, my first computer when I was young was an Atari 800XL. It didn’t do anything unless I wrote a program for it. So, ever since then, the tech-savvy part of me has been alive. The test you referenced proved that for me, placing me solidly between millennial and Genxer.

    The comment about what your parents instill in you is so important and powerful. Yet, how often in higher ed do we try to ignore this in our students, or, worse yet, try to get them to de-value those values in the name of helping students find their own values? I fear too much and too often. We need to find ways to allow students to value the values they bring to college while exploring new situations and opportunities that help them define or refine who they are as people.

    My guess is after I process some thoughts, I’ll be posting something along these lines. Thanks for your post.

    1. Joe Sabado

      Thanks, Eric!

      I love your take on the students’ value system. Maybe it’s just me, but I value what my parents taught me growing up. The work ethic, the generosity, the family-first value are some of the values that drive me in how I deal with my world. I look forward to your post!


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